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Left-wing parties on top in first round of legislative vote

Text by Joseph BAMAT

Latest update : 2012-06-10

Left-wing parties and their allies secured 47.1% of the votes in the first round of France’s parliamentary elections on Sunday while the UMP and its right-wing allies garnered 35.4%, according to preliminary figures from the Ipsos polling agency.

Follow the first round of the French parliamentary elections in real time on our live blog by clicking here.

France’s Socialist Party hopes to seize its first parliamentary majority in a decade when voters head to the polls on Sunday. The legislative election, which opinion polls predict will be a tight race between the country’s two main political parties, comes just more than a month after socialist François Hollande won the presidential runoff ballot.

All 577 seats in the lower-house National Assembly are up for grabs. President Hollande and his recently appointed government need a left-wing majority to implement the reforms for which he campaigned.

However, the conservative UMP party is intent on conserving its advantage in the assembly, which remains its final stronghold after defeats in May's presidential election as well as 2011 senatorial elections.

A win for the UMP on Sunday would force the socialist president to appoint a new prime minister from the rival camp and enter into a cohabitation, or coalition government. This kind of political arrangement has occurred three times in France since the end of World War Two. It is a situation socialists want desperately to avoid.

To achieve an absolute majority, the Socialist Party must attain 289 seats. The left-wing party hopes to ride the momentum of its presidential victory all the way into the National Assembly and govern without concession for the next five years.

To try to offset the leftward trend, the UMP has decided to run many incumbents and well-established politicians, even at the risk of breaking gender balance rules and thus making itself subject to heavy fines.

Questions over abstention

Roughly 46 million people are eligible to vote on Sunday, choosing from a roster of more than 6,600 candidates.

Voter participation had reached 48.31 percent by 5pm, the ministry of the interior announced. That figure was down slightly from the previous parliamentary election in 2007, in which voter participation was at 49.28 at the same time.

To avoid a second-round ballot, candidates need to secure more than 50 percent of the vote. In the 2007 parliamentary election, only 109 candidates won more than half the votes in the first round. All candidates who attain 12.5 percent of total eligible votes or better on Sunday will head to the runoff on June 17.

One of the determining factors of the election will be voter participation. The French usually turn out to cast ballots in high numbers for presidential elections, but tend to show less interest in legislative polls. The abstention rate reached 39 percent in the first round of the 2007 parliamentary elections.

According to Eric Bonnet of the French polling firm BVA, low turnout is once again expected. “A low turnout will mean less MPs from the left, and fewer cases where three candidates face off in a runoff,” said Bonnet said.

The opinion expert added that first-round results could significantly affect voters’ interest in the second round. “There are two different campaigns before and after the first round, and there could be a big shift between the two ballots,” he explained.

Low first-round voter turnout could also spell disaster for the anti-immigration National Front party, which partially stole the spotlight in the presidential election with a historic 18 percent of the vote, but could once more find itself excluded from parliament this spring.



Date created : 2012-06-09


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